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In her three previous, award-winning collections of blues poetry, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has explored themes of African American history, Southern culture, and intergenerational trauma. Now, in her fourth and most accomplished collection, Jeffers turns to the task of seeking and reconciling the blues and its three movements—identification, exploration, and resolution—with wisdom. Poems in The Glory Gets ask, “What happens on the road to wisdom? What now in this bewildering place?” Using the metaphor of “gets”—the concessional returns of living—Jeffers travels this fraught yet exhilarating journey, employing unexpected improvisations while navigating womanhood. The spirit and spirituality of her muse, the late poet Lucille Clifton, guide the poet through the treacherous territories other women have encountered and survived yet kept secret from their daughters. An online reader’s companion will be available at http://honoreejeffers.site.wesleyan.edu.
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is the author of three previous books of poetry: The Gospel of Barbecue, Outlandish Blues, and Red Clay Suite. Her poems have appeared widely in anthologies and journals such as Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, Kenyon Review, and Iowa Review. She is an associate professor of English at the University of Oklahoma, and this is her fourth book of poetry.
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts
Praise for The Glory Gets:
“This book is a miracle. The wisdom and the courage in these poems cuts straight into me. Jeffers is wrestling with what I thought I’d learned to put over there and call History, and she brings it back over here where I stand. It is alive. It watches me. How much of what we are and what we run from is caught—held, trapped, but also illuminated—by that gaze? These poems make clear how much we turn our backs to, trying to forget. This poet sings it beautifully and brutally back into being.”
—Tracy K. Smith, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Life on Mars
“In The Glory Gets, Jeffers reminds us that very often ‘catharsis is not healing.’ Her poems—about lynching, lost love, racism, the challenges of being a black woman—are never simple, formless rants or indulgent confessionals, but witty, intelligent and sophisticated examinations of very complex issues. The collection is a wonderful wisdom book that is openly vulnerable, uncertain, and yet full of remarkable grace.”
—Kwame Dawes, author of Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems
“There is a clear emotional progression in The Glory Gets that expresses the poet’s gifts at their full power. Reading these poems, we travel from the historical trauma to the manifestation of that trauma in our relationships. This progression shows a new complexity in Jeffers’s oeuvre.”
—A. Van Jordan, author of The Cineaste
From the book:
After you are cleaned of your slick outfit,
you will scar down the seam of your mind
and grow tight-packed stones beneath your skin.
Nothing dissolves. No one will explain.
Daily you will search for real meaning
in constant death and sundry nonsense
but no meaning will take place—damn it.
You might give in and commence to pray
and God might visit and drink your tea,
but The Holy One won’t stay for long—
you won’t see whether this mystery
wears a flowered dress or tailored pants.
Your mother will give you her big pot
to stir, though you didn’t ask for that.
She will tell you cooking heavy meals
will bring you immeasurable joy.
You will know she’s telling you a lie.
You will cut your woman’s eyes at her—
your enemy, another woman,
another convict, one more conflict.
You will hate her for pushing you through
her narrow door into a cramped room.
You will grow wise: your mother was born
only the day before you were born—
and no woman ever really dies.
You will thank her for her cooking pot—
gratitude, another betrayal.